Minister: All immigrants are not created equal

Immigrants from developed countries should get preferential treatment, says Søren Pind

The time for rigidly even-handed immigration policies that put people from developed countries on the same footing as people from undeveloped countries is over, immigration minister Søren Pind said over the weekend.

Speaking with Politiken newspaper, he announced plans to give immigrants from wealthy countries exemptions from some of the strictest requirements under family-reunification law.

“It’s a colossal problem that the immigration law is so full of politically correct wording that we end up hurting people who are willing and able to come to Denmark and don’t require anything from the state,” Pind said. “The rules have been packed with legalese and misunderstood pc’ism in the name of equality.”

Sources at the Immigration Ministry told The Copenhagen Post that the immigration minister proposed exempting immigrants from a group of developed countries – including the US, Canada, Australia and Japan – from having to take the immigration test required under current family reunification laws.

Some criteria for the proposed nation-based exemption are that the foreigner’s home country is a member of the OECD; is placed near the top of the UN’s Human Development Index; and that its citizens are allowed to travel to Europe without a visa.

Other nationals applying for family reunification would continue to be required to pass the immigration test, which consists of an oral test of the applicant’s Danish language skills and knowledge of Danish society, and costs 3,000 kroner.

“Sure it’s a form of discrimination,” Jacob Mchangama, the director of legal affairs for the liberal think tank Cepos told Politiken. “But according to international law, states have the right to choose who is allowed to come in. The EU co-operation also entails a form of discrimination, that a Portuguese, for example, but not an American, can settle down and live wherever he wants in Europe.”

The Netherlands and Germany have introduced similar preferential exemptions, according to Pind. If they can do it, the minister said, so can Denmark.

The existing family reunification rules already exempt foreigners seeking family reunification with an “economically active” Turkish citizen living in Denmark from the requirement of passing the immigration test and paying the 3,000 kroner fee required of all other non-EU applicants.

The Justice Ministry has not yet ruled outright that Pind’s new proposal is unlawful, but according to information obtained by Politiken, top lawyers from the ministry have advised the immigration minister against the proposal favouring foreigners from rich countries.

While the opposition favoured revising the immigration rules, it called Pind’s proposal “a botch job”.

MP Henrik Dam Kristensen, the immigration spokesperson for the Social Democrats, suggested that the proposal was misguided and discriminatory – even against Danes.

“The government and DF are saying that you can come here easily with a good education and a lot of money. But the issue is really who Danish citizens can fall in love with,” Kristensen told Politiken. “Now it’s going to be better to fall in love with an American than a Brazilian.”

Lars Hyhnau Hansen, the spokesman for the family reunification advocacy group Marriage Without Borders (Ægteskab uden grænser), called Pind’s proposal “nonsense and rubbish”.

“Employment among Turkish, Filipino and Thai immigrants is not particularly low – it’s maybe just a couple percentage points lower than among American immigrants,” Hansen added.

The immigration minister said the new proposal is just a beginning to the changes he wants to make to Denmark’s immigration rules.

“It marks a break with the policies we have had since 2001. How widespread it will be depends on the legal battle, but in any case, Pandora’s box is now open. I am going to put all my efforts into these changes.”